Thu, 22 Feb 2018
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- It's time to break free from fear, fake online personas and looking at the world through a digital screen display, Pope Francis told young people. "Do not allow the spark of youth to be extinguished in the darkness of a closed room in which the only window to the outside world is a computer and smartphone," the pope told youths in his annual message for local celebrations of World Youth Day. "Open wide the doors of your life! May your time and space be filled with meaningful relationships, real people with whom to share your authentic and concrete experiences of daily life," he said in the message, published Feb. 22 at the Vatican. In preparation for the next international celebration of World Youth Day -- which will be held in Panama Jan. 22-27, 2019 -- many dioceses will have their own celebrations Palm Sunday, March 25. The Panama gathering will focus on Mary's response to the angel Gabriel's announcement that God had chosen her to bear the child Jesus: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." The 2018 theme chosen by Pope Francis is the angel's reassurance, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God." Many young people today are afraid -- afraid of never being accepted, of finding a good job and even of their real selves, the pope said in his message. "Today, there are many young people who feel the need to be different from who they really are, in an attempt to adapt to an often artificial and unattainable standard," he wrote. "They continuously 'photo-shop' their images, hiding behind masks and false identities, almost becoming fake selves." This sense of inadequacy is the root of many uncertainties and even obsessions, such as "receiving as many 'likes' as possible" on social media, he added. No one is exempt from doubt or fear, which even can be seen in the Bible in the lives of Mary, Moses, Abraham, the apostles and many others, he said. In fact, he added, the biggest obstacle to faith in God is often fear, not skepticism. The only way forward is to face one's fears head on, identify them clearly and come to terms with them, he said, "so as not to find yourself wasting time and energy by being gripped by empty and faceless ghosts." People have to act, which requires faith in God and his grace, otherwise fear and doubt will make people "become inward-looking and closed off to defend ourselves from everything and everyone, and we will remain paralyzed," he said. The pope told young people to look for God in prayerful silence and the sacraments so they could draw on the needed courage, wisdom and grace, and to turn to members of the church for encouragement and support. God is always there to help everybody, he said. He does not ask people to present a stellar resume of their lives, "full of merits and successes." Receiving God's grace will not mean life's problems will disappear, he said, "but it does have the power to transform our life deeply." "The unknown that tomorrow holds for us is not a dark threat we need to overcome, but a favorable time given to us for living out the uniqueness of our personal vocation, and for sharing it with our brothers and sisters in the church and in the world," he said. Being with others on life's journey is always key, he said, because it helps unlock one's own gifts, inspires dreams and opens new horizons. "Never lose the enthusiasm of enjoying others' company and friendship, as well as the pleasure of dreaming together, of walking together," he said. That is why it is so important young people break out of the "darkness of closed room" and the virtual world so as to experience meaningful relationships with real people, he said. Pope Francis called on adults in the Catholic Church to have courage, too, and give young people "important responsibilities." "Young people need to know that someone truly believes in you," he said. "Please know that the pope has confidence in you, that the church has ...
Wed, 21 Feb 2018
For centuries people have looked to words spoken by God in the Bible’s first book for clarity on what it means to be human: “Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness” (Gn 1:26). Consistent with the thinking reflected there, human nature, created by God in his image, is understood as something well established and unchanging. Genesis also says that in creating, God made human beings “male and female” (Gn 1:27). Today, an influential school of thought called gender theory says sexual identity is a social construct and a matter of choice. Pope Francis often has criticized gender theory, saying it fails to “recognize the order of creation.” But a militant “transgender rights“ movement aims to reshape public policy and practice on issues from using public restrooms to serving in the military. That’s only the tip of the iceberg. Science and technology today spearhead discussion of a fundamental question: What does it mean to be human? At a deep level, how we think about human nature itself appears in flux under the lens of “transhumanist” and “posthumanist” thought. Joining the conversation Transhumanistm and posthumanism have existed in secular intellectual circles for decades, and they have served as staples of science fiction, but lately they’ve been reaching out to a broader audience. A notable instance was a popular book written by an Israeli historian named Yuval Noah Harari. Bearing the title “Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow” (HarperCollins, $35), the book says the main human project of the 21st century is to “upgrade Homo Sapiens into Homo Deus ... attaining divinity” by transformative scientific and technological technique. In a 2015 interview with Catholic News Agency regarding transhumanism, Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk, director of education for the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia, said, “Catholics cannot accept a vision of man which presupposes an outright ‘unacceptability’ of his basic human nature, nor a vision that labors to replace it with an alternate bodily structure that is engineered to be ‘post-human.’” Father Pacholczyk said that the “integral vision of man” accepts that humans have a body and that “we are meant to embrace and grow through the limitations of our human nature.” “Even if our nature were to be radically re-engineered and modified, our innermost self would retain fundamental shards of incompleteness.” By “divinity,” Harari, an atheist, does not mean what religious believers mean — a transcendent creator who watches over the world he has made. He means a race of super-beings as successors of today’s human specimens, with far longer life spans and vastly enhanced mental capacities. A Bioethicist Explains Pacholczyk In a 2015 interview with Catholic News Agency regarding transhumanism, Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk, director of education for the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia, said, “Catholics cannot accept a vision of man which presupposes an outright ‘unacceptability’ of his basic human nature, nor a vision that labors to replace it with an alternate bodily structure that is engineered to be ‘post-human.’” Father Pacholczyk said that the “integral vision of man” accepts that humans have a body and that “we are meant to embrace and grow through the limitations of our human nature.” “Even if our nature were to be radically re-engineered and modified, our innermost self would retain fundamental shards of incompleteness.” Lately the Church has entered this discussion. In Rome last November, the University of the Holy Cross, a pontifical institution sponsored by Opus Dei, held a conference on the theme “Human, Transhuman and Posthuman.” A conference summary says the working assumption of transhumanist thought is that genetic manipulation, medicine or education may eventually be able to transform human beings into “something stronger and better” — indeed, “altogether different,” according to the posthumanists. Around the same time, the Pontifical ...
Tue, 20 Feb 2018
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- When people are unable to love or accept a child with problems or illness, many times it's because they are too weak themselves to be able to bear someone else's vulnerabilities, Pope Francis told a group of children and young people who are wards of the state. "If I have a giant rock, I can't put it on top of a cardboard box because the rock will crush the box," he said, explaining how some adults "don't have sufficient strength to bear fragility because they themselves are fragile." The pope met with the group, which included minors living in foster care or receiving other forms of support and help from the Romanian-based NGO, called "FDP: Protagonists in Education." The Vatican released Feb. 19 a written transcript of the meeting, which was held at the Vatican Jan. 4. The pope said he received the group's questions beforehand so he could better prepare to answer them. One question in particular, he said, had made him cry. The question, which the young man read aloud at the audience, was why his mother didn't want or accept him. He said he was given up when he was 2 months old and when he turned 21 he got in touch with his birth mother and even stayed with her for two weeks; but he said it didn't go well and he was forced to leave. "My father is dead. Am I at fault if she doesn't want me? Why doesn't she accept me?" the unidentified man asked the pope. "Your mother loves you, but she doesn't know how to, she doesn't know how to express it. She can't because life is hard and unjust, and that love that is trapped inside her, she doesn't know how to say it or how to caress you," the pope said. He urged the young man not to despair or become cynical, but to hold on to hope. "I promise to pray that one day she can show you that love." These terrible situations have nothing to do with anyone's fault, the pope said. "It's a question of the immense fragility in adults, due to, in your case, much poverty, many social injustices that crush the smallest and the poorest." "Spiritual poverty," too, is to blame, he said, because it leads to "hardened hearts, and it causes what seems impossible: a mother who abandons her own child. This is fruit of material and spiritual poverty, fruit of a mistaken, inhuman social system that hardens hearts, that leads to mistakes, makes it so we cannot find the right path." This question, the pope said, was much like another question from another young person who asked, "Why are there parents who love healthy children and not those who are sick or have problems?" "When facing other people's fragilities, such as illnesses, there are some adults who are weaker, who don't have enough strength to bear fragility and this is because they themselves are fragile," Pope Francis said. Some parents are fragile or weak because they are human beings with their own limitations, sins and vulnerabilities, he said. "And perhaps they were not lucky to be helped when they were young" to find a person who could take them by the hand and help them grow, become strong and overcome their weaknesses, he added. "It's difficult to get help from fragile parents and sometimes it's us who has to help them" and not blame life for how it turned out, he said, but use one's own strength so "the rock doesn't crush the cardboard box." Another young person asked, "Why did we end up with this destiny" or lot in life? While no one knows "the why" or reason that allows these situations or suffering to happen, the pope said, Christians do know "the why, in the sense of the ending God wants to give" to each person's destiny -- that is, healing and new life. No one knows why things start out a certain way, he said, but there is no doubt where people should be headed: finding and experiencing Christ who always loves and heals; "that's the why." Another young person said that when a friend of theirs at the orphanage had died, the priest told them the boy died a sinner and would not go to heaven. The pope said no one can ...
Mon, 19 Feb 2018
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis has named nine new members to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, including abuse survivors or the parents of survivors, the Vatican said. However, respecting "the right of each person to disclose their experiences of abuse publicly or not to do so," the commission said Feb. 17, "the members appointed today have chosen not do so publicly, but solely within the commission." Pope Francis re-appointed Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston to be president of the commission, which the pope originally established in 2014. The terms of the original members had expired in December. The first group of members had included two survivors who were very public about their experience of abuse as children. Peter Saunders, a British survivor and advocate, was asked by the commission to take a leave of absence in 2016; Marie Collins, an Irish survivor and advocate, announced in March 2017 that she had resigned. Both were outspoken about what they saw as resistance to implementing change and ensuring accountability for bishops guilty of covering up abuse. The new members, whose appointments were announced by the Vatican Feb. 17 include: Benyam Dawit Mezmur, an Ethiopian who was chair of the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2015-17; Indian Sister Arina Gonsalves, a certified counselor and consultant on abuse cases; Neville Owen, a judge and former chair of the Australian Catholic Church's Truth, Justice and Healing Council; Sinalelea Fe'ao, chief education officer for the Diocese of Tonga and Niue; and Myriam Wijlens, a canon law professor from the Netherlands. Also appointed were: Ernesto Caffo, an Italian professor of child and adolescent psychiatry and member of the board of directors of the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children; Sister Jane Bertelsen, a member of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood, who has worked for 20 years in developing child-protection policies in Australia and England; Teresa Kettelkamp, former executive director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection; and Nelson Giovanelli Dos Santos, the Brazilian co-founder of the Fazenda da Esperanca and an expert in the rehabilitation of youth. The seven members who were re-appointed are: Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, director of the Center for Child Protection at Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University; Gabriel Dy-Liacco, a psychotherapist from the Philippines; Auxiliary Bishop Luis Manuel Ali Herrera of Bogota, Colombia; Hannah Suchocka, professor of law and former prime minister of Poland; Sister of Charity Kayula Lesa of Zambia, who has worked with refugees and in the prevention of human trafficking; Precious Blood Sister Hermenegild Makoro, secretary-general of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference; and Msgr. Robert Oliver, commission secretary and former abuse investigator for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Cardinal O'Malley, in a statement released by the commission, said the new members "will add to the commission's global perspective in the protection of minors and vulnerable adults." In April, the renewed commission will meet "with several people who have experienced abuse" before discussing ways to promote an ongoing dialogue with survivors, said the commission's statement. "Discussions have been underway for some months with a view to creating an 'International Survivor Advisory Panel,' a new structure shaped by the voices of victims-survivors," the statement said. Baroness Sheila Hollins, a mental health specialist and commission member who was not reappointed, will make a presentation about the advisory panel at the April meeting. "The goals for this panel include studying abuse prevention from the survivor's perspective and being pro-active in awareness raising of the need for healing and care for everyone hurt by abuse," the statement said.
Mon, 19 Feb 2018
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- No physician should be forced to choose between violating his or her conscience and facing professional sanctions when defending human life, said the president of the World Federation of Catholic Medical Associations. Dr. John Lee, the federation president, wrote a letter in early February to the World Medical Association protesting proposed changes in the WMA's ethical policy statements on abortion and on euthanasia. The changes apparently will be discussed at the WMA council meeting in Latvia in April. The Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, reported on Lee's letter on its front page Feb. 16 under the headline, "Conscientious objection in danger." The two proposals, Lee said, would "facilitate worldwide abortion and euthanasia by curtailing doctors' conscientious objection" by using "deceptive language, pressure on doctors by national regulatory bodies and legal force to weaken national laws protecting human life." The WMA's Declaration of Oslo on Therapeutic Abortion, most recently updated in 2006, said the association "requires the physician to maintain respect for human life," but "where the law allows therapeutic abortion to be performed, the procedure should be performed by a physician competent to do so in premises approved by the appropriate authority." "If the physician's convictions do not allow him or her to advise or perform an abortion, he or she may withdraw while ensuring the continuity of medical care by a qualified colleague," the 2006 declaration said. Apparently, Lee said, the proposed revision removes any distinction between "a therapeutic abortion" and "an elective abortion," and affirms that "the physician who objects must nevertheless provide 'safe abortion' in some circumstances." In addition, he said, the proposal apparently removes the 2006 declaration's reference to the "unborn child" and refers instead to the "fetus." On the issue of euthanasia, Lee said he has been told that Canada and the Netherlands have proposed changes that would state the "WMA does not condemn physicians who follow their own conscience in deciding whether or not to participate in these activities" in jurisdictions where euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are legal. "By saying that the WMA does not condemn physicians who perform euthanasia where it is legal, the WMA is saying that euthanasia can be ethical if it is legal," Lee wrote. In addition, he said, "based on the Canadian experience, acceptance of the ethical neutrality of medically-assisted death has resulted in almost immediate challenges for physicians who are unable to refer (patients to other doctors) because of moral, religious or ethical concerns. It is a serious problem, with physicians put in the impossible position of having to choose between their conscience and being allowed to continue to care for their patients." "Doctors who exercise their right of conscientious objection to abortion and euthanasia will find themselves victims of coercion by their professional societies and the state," Lee wrote. "This oppression of the silent majority by the vocal minority cannot end well."
Fri, 16 Feb 2018
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Updating the norms and regulations governing the resignation of bishops and of Roman Curia department heads who are not cardinals, Pope Francis said they will continue to hold office until he accepts their resignations. The update was published in a document titled "Imparare a congedarsi" ("Learning to say farewell") and was given "motu proprio," meaning on the pope's own initiative. The new rules went into effect Feb. 15, the same day it was released by the Vatican press office. The Code of Canon Law previously stated that a resignation that requires acceptance "lacks all force if it is not accepted within three months" while one that does not require acceptance "takes effect when it has been communicated by the one resigning." However, the pope said that after consultation, he "became aware of the need to update the norms regarding the times and methods of resignation from office upon reaching the age limit." Under the new norms, "the acceptance or extension, for a specified or unspecified amount of time, is communicated to the person" resigning. The ending of a church assignment, the pope wrote, "must be considered an integral part of the service itself, in that it requires a new form of availability." "This interior attitude is necessary both when, for reasons of age, one must prepare to leave office and when they are asked to continue that service for a longer period despite reaching the age of 75," Pope Francis wrote. Those preparing to retire, he said, must also prepare themselves "adequately before God, stripping themselves of the desire for power and the presumption of being indispensable." "This will allow us to cross this moment with peace and confidence which otherwise could be painful and conflictual," the pope wrote. Pope Francis also updated the norms involving the resignation of heads of dicasteries of the Roman Curia who are not cardinals. In a document published in 2014, the pope stated that "non-cardinal heads of dicasteries in the Roman Curia, the secretaries and bishops who fulfill other offices of pontifical nomination forfeit their office on the completion of their 75th year." Now, the pope decreed, bishops and prelates heading offices in the Roman Curia still must offer their resignations at 75, but whether they leave or not is up to the pope who "will decide evaluating the concrete circumstances." The updated rules for non-cardinal heads in the Roman Curia are similar to the 1983 Code of Canon Law and the 1990 Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, which already required most bishops to submit their resignations at the age of 75. The request for bishops and prelates to go beyond their mandate, however, should "not be considered a privilege or personal triumph, or as a favor due to presumed obligations derived from friendship or closeness, nor as gratitude for the efficiency of services provided," Pope Francis said. "This pontifical decision is not an automatic act but an act of governance," the pope wrote. "Consequently, it implies the virtue of prudence that will help, through adequate discernment, to make the right decision."
Thu, 15 Feb 2018
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis told a group of Jesuits in Peru that he often meets on Fridays with survivors of sex abuse. The meetings, which he said do not always become public knowledge, make it clear that the survivors' process of recovery "is very hard. They remain annihilated. Annihilated," the pope had told the Jesuits Jan. 19 in Lima. The scandal of clerical sexual abuse shows not only the "fragility" of the Catholic Church, he said, "but also -- let us speak clearly -- our level of hypocrisy." The director of the Vatican press office Feb. 15 confirmed that the pope's meetings with abuse survivors is regular and ongoing. "I can confirm that several times a month, the Holy Father meets victims of sexual abuse both individually and in groups," said Greg Burke, the director. "Pope Francis listens to the victims and tries to help them heal the serious wounds caused by the abuse they've suffered. The meetings take place with maximum reserve out of respect for the victims and their suffering." On his trips abroad, Pope Francis usually spends time with local Jesuit communities and holds a question-and-answer session with them. Weeks later, a transcript of the exchange is published by Civilta Cattolica, a Jesuit journal in Rome. The transcribed and translated texts from Pope Francis' conversations with Jesuits in Chile Jan. 16 and in Peru three days later were released in Italian and English by Civilta Cattolica Feb. 15 with the pope's approval, the journal said. The Jesuits in Chile had not asked the pope about the abuse scandal, even though the scandal was in the news, particularly because of ongoing controversy over the pope's appointment in 2015 of Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno, who had been accused of covering up the abuse committed by his mentor, Father Fernando Karadima. Pope Francis met with the Jesuits in Santiago at the end of his first full day in Chile. Earlier that day he had met with "a small group" of people who had been abused by Chilean priests, according to the Vatican press office. The meeting with the survivors and with the Chilean Jesuits took place days before Chilean reporters asked Pope Francis about the accusations against Bishop Barros and he replied, "The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, I will speak. There is not one piece of evidence against him. It is calumny. Is that clear?" The pope later apologized for the remark and, soon after returning to Rome, sent Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, an experienced investigator, to Chile to conduct interviews. After the pope left Chile and flew on to Peru, the topic of abuse was even more pressing. In the context of a discussion about spiritual "consolation" and "desolation," one Jesuit told the pope, "I would like you to say something about a theme that leads to a lot of desolation in the church, and particularly among religious men and women and the clergy: the theme of sexual abuse. We are very disturbed by these scandals." Abuse, Pope Francis replied, "is the greatest desolation that the church is suffering. It brings shame, but we need to remember that shame is also a very Ignatian grace." In his Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, encouraged people to contemplate Jesus' goodness and their own wickedness, asking for the grace to be ashamed. The pope told the Peruvian Jesuits that it is a temptation for people in the church to seek a "consolation prize" by comparing statistics about abuse within the church and abuse within families or in other organizations. But even if the abuse rate is lower in the church, the pope said, "it is terrible even if only one of our brothers is such! For God anointed him to sanctify children and adults, and instead of making them holy he has destroyed them. It's horrible! We need to listen to what someone who has been abused feels." At that point the pope told the Jesuits in Peru, "On Fridays -- sometimes this is known and sometimes it is not known -- I normally meet ...
Wed, 14 Feb 2018
ROME (CNS) -- Lent is a time for Christians to get their hearts in sync with the heart of Jesus, Pope Francis said. "Let the Lord heal the wounds of sin and fulfill the prophecy made to our fathers: 'A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh,'" the pope said Feb. 14, celebrating Mass and distributing ashes at the beginning of Lent. After a brief prayer at the Benedictine's Monastery of St. Anselm, Pope Francis made the traditional Ash Wednesday procession to the Dominican-run Basilica of Santa Sabina on Rome's Aventine Hill for the Mass. He received ashes on his head from 93-year-old Cardinal Jozef Tomko, titular cardinal of the basilica, and he distributed ashes to the cardinals present, three Benedictines, three Dominicans, an Italian couple with two children and members of the Pontifical Academy for Martyrs, which promotes the traditional Lenten "station church" pilgrimage in Rome. In his homily, he said the church gives Christians the 40 days of Lent as a time to reflect on "anything that could dampen or even corrode our believing heart." Everyone experiences temptation, the pope said. Lent is a time to pause and step back from situations that lead to sin, a time to see how God is at work in others and in the world and, especially, a time to return to the Lord, knowing that his mercy is boundless. Lent, he said, is a time "to allow our hearts to beat once more in tune with the vibrant heart of Jesus." Hitting the reset button, the pope said, requires taking a pause from "bitter feelings, which never get us anywhere" and from a frantic pace of life that leaves too little time for family, friends, children, grandparents and God. People need to pause from striving to be noticed, from snooty comments and "haughty looks," he said; instead, they need to show tenderness, compassion and even reverence for others. "Pause for a little while, refrain from the deafening noise that weakens and confuses our hearing, that makes us forget the fruitful and creative power of silence," the pope said. Use the pauses of Lent "to look and contemplate," he suggested. Christians can learn from seeing the gestures others make that "keep the flame of faith and hope alive." "Look at faces alive with God's tenderness and goodness working in our midst," the pope said, pointing to the faces of families who struggle to survive yet continue to love, the wrinkled faces of the elderly "that reflect God's wisdom at work" and the faces of the sick and their caregivers who "remind us that the value of each person can never be reduced to a question of calculation or utility." "See the remorseful faces of so many who try to repair their errors and mistakes, and who from their misfortune and suffering, fight to transform their situations and move forward," Pope Francis said. But most of all, he said, "see and contemplate the real face of Christ crucified out of love for everyone, without exception. For everyone? Yes, for everyone. To see his face is an invitation filled with hope for this Lenten time, in order to defeat the demons of distrust, apathy and resignation. The invitation, he said, is to "return without fear to those outstretched, eager arms of your Father, who is rich in mercy, who awaits you." "Return without fear to join in the celebration of those who are forgiven," the pope said. "Return without fear to experience the healing and reconciling tenderness of God."
Wed, 14 Feb 2018
The report on Feb. 5 that Pope Francis, despite denying that he’d seen evidence put forward by victims, had in fact received a letter alleging the complicity of a Chilean bishop in clergy sexual abuse has created perhaps the most serious controversy to date in a pontificate that will observe its fifth anniversary in March. The case of Bishop Juan Barros, whom Francis transferred to the Diocese of Osorno in 2015, involves accusations that the bishop was aware of abuse perpetrated by his mentor, Father Fernando Karadima. The letter the pope is reported to have received in 2015 from Juan Carlos Cruz, now a resident of Philadelphia, says the future bishop even witnessed Father Karadima abusing him. As Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, the Vatican’s top investigator of abuse claims, completes interviews in Chile and the United States, looking into this case anew, the episode raises questions of how survivors of abuse are treated by the Church — or expect to be treated — when they come forward, as well as the tensions between due process for the accused and zero tolerance of abuse. The issue of belief During his January visit to Chile, Pope Francis made waves by publicly calling accusations against Bishop Barros “calumny.” This statement would suggest that, if the pope read the letter from Cruz and yet still asserted not seeing “evidence,” then he simply chose not to believe the letter. This example from the head of the Catholic Church is problematic for those working to rid the Church of abuse. It undercuts the environment the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, adopted by the U.S. bishops in 2002, is trying to foster. A climate of trust “is the first step in getting those abused to come forward,” Mary Jane Doerr, director of the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Office for the Protection of Children and Youth, told Our Sunday Visitor. Doerr sees the wider culture shift from skepticism to belief as the default response to people alleging abuse, reflected in the #MeToo movement and elsewhere, as a positive sign for those who have been abused. “Society is seeing again that sexual abuse is not about the feared stranger or confined to the Catholic priesthood. It’s about people from all cultures and social and economic levels who use children, women and men for their own benefit, their own sexual gratification,” she said. “If children are trained to recognize, resist and report sexual abuse, we can help make it less likely this will happen. And if adults know the warning signs, sexual abuse can be prevented before someone is hurt.” But obstacles, such as shame and misplaced guilt, still keep survivors from coming forward, often for decades. “It can be the survivor didn’t understand it was abuse until years later. Then, as they look back they are humiliated that they were tricked. It is hard to come forward and say I just realized it was abuse,” Doerr said. “Survivors have said they had to wait until their mother died, as it would destroy her to know a close family friend had done something so terrible.” On exoneration The pope publicly raising the possibility of false accusations does raise the question of what happens in the event of such an accusation and how common it may be. The United States saw two cases in the news recently. In the Archdiocese of St. Louis, Father Xiu Hui “Joseph” Jiang in recent years twice faced sex abuse allegations. Both times the allegations proved to be unfounded and charges were dropped. He even received an apology from the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) for making false statements about him. In the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin, Bishop David L. Ricken in September 2017 announced that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Vatican City had exonerated Father Paul Radetski of allegations that he had sexually abused a minor. The diocese subsequently restored Father Radetski to ministry. Since the adoption of the Charter in 2002, the Church in the United ...
Wed, 14 Feb 2018
Diplomats prefer difficult negotiations to be secret so that they are not disturbed by outsiders. Vatican diplomats are no different, but one big disturbance now is taking place in the current negotiations with China. The negotiations concern various issues, but a key one is whether the government or the Vatican will decide on the appointment of bishops. The source of the disturbance is Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, 86-year-old retired archbishop of Hong Kong, who recently traveled to Rome to deliver a letter to Pope Francis from a Chinese bishop upset that Vatican emissaries had asked him to step down to make way for an illegitimate bishop. There are about 40 bishops in the “underground” Church and 60 in the official, government-recognized Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, but reportedly some have made known to Rome, confidentially, their allegiance to the pope. The bishop whose letter to the pope was delivered by Cardinal Zen is Zhuang Jianjian of Shantou, who is 88. Pope Francis received Cardinal Zen and, according to the cardinal, said that some time previously he had told Vatican diplomats not to create another “Cardinal Mindszenty case.” (This was a reference to the Hungarian primate imprisoned under the Communist regime in the 1950s who later found refuge in the U.S. Embassy in Budapest for 15 years but was replaced by the Vatican with a primate the government accepted.) Reported details of a deal As reported by AsiaNews, Cardinal Zen was concerned that the Vatican negotiations were betraying those who had long suffered for their fidelity to the pope, and which implicated that Vatican diplomats were taking initiatives unknown to the pope. Background The People’s Republic of China severed diplomatic relations with the Vatican in 1951. In the intervening decades, an underground presence of Catholics has survived in China, as well as a state-sponsored “patriotic association” of Catholics. Negotiations between Rome and Beijing have played out over decades, with the prospect of Church “interference” in Chinese politics and the debate over authority to appoint bishops being two main points of contention. In addition, AsiaNews broke a story, from a correspondent in China, that the bishop of Shantou was to be replaced by an excommunicated bishop, Giuseppe Huang Bingzhang, 51, while the “underground” Bishop Vincent Guo Xijn of Mindong, 60, had been asked by the Vatican to become either coadjutor or auxiliary of an illegitimate Bishop Zhan Silu, 57, not previously recognized by Rome. The same AsiaNews article stated that the Vatican has been asked to recognize seven illegitimate bishops, but in exchange the government would recognize about 40 bishops of the underground Church and 20 candidates as bishops nominated by the Vatican for the official Church. The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, in an interview with the Italian outlet La Stampa, denied any rift between Pope Francis and the Vatican negotiators. “Pope Benedict XVI well represented the spirit of this dialogue in his 2007 Letter to Chinese Catholics, ‘the solution to existing problems cannot be pursued via an ongoing conflict with the legitimate civil authorities,’” Cardinal Parolin said. “In Pope Francis’ pontificate, the ongoing negotiations move exactly along these lines: constructive openness to dialogue and fidelity to the genuine Tradition of the Church.” Voices of resistance Father Bernardo Cervellera, director of the outlet AsiaNews, told Our Sunday Visitor he appreciated Cardinal Parolin’s interview for its acknowledgement that all could make errors and its affirmation that there was only one Catholic Church in China but two communities that must seek reconciliation. The concern of Cardinal Zen and AsiaNews, said Father Cervellera, is that the voice of the Catholics who have resisted the government-controlled official Church is not being heard. “Even when they come to Rome they are not heard, whereas ‘official Catholics’ are given ...
Tue, 13 Feb 2018
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In his formal documents, many speeches and unscripted morning homilies the past five years, Pope Francis has given the church plenty of "food for thought" on many issues of great importance. Here are a baker's dozen of quotes from the pope, organized by topic: -- On clerical sexual abuse: "Before God and his people I express my sorrow for the sins and grave crimes of clerical sexual abuse committed against you. And I humbly ask forgiveness. I beg your forgiveness, too, for the sins of omission on the part of church leaders who did not respond adequately to reports of abuse made by family members, as well as by abuse victims themselves. This led to even greater suffering on the part of those who were abused, and it endangered other minors who were at risk." (Homily at Mass with survivors, July 7, 2014). -- On communication: "Communication has the power to build bridges, to enable encounter and inclusion, and thus to enrich society. How beautiful it is when people select their words and actions with care, in the effort to avoid misunderstandings, to heal wounded memories and to build peace and harmony." (Message for World Communications Day 2016). -- On creation: "We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth; our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters." ("Laudato Si', On Care for Our Common Home," May 24, 2015). -- On economics: "Let us say 'no' to an economy of exclusion and inequality, where money rules, rather than service. That economy kills. That economy excludes. That economy destroys Mother Earth." (World Meeting of Popular Movements, July 9, 2015). -- On faith: "Please do not water down your faith in Jesus Christ. We dilute fruit drinks -- orange, apple or banana juice -- but please do not drink a diluted form of faith. Faith is whole and entire, not something that you water down. It is faith in Jesus. It is faith in the son of God made man, who loved me and who died for me." (World Youth Day, July 25, 2013). -- On the family: "No family drops down from heaven perfectly formed; families need constantly to grow and mature in the ability to love. ... May we never lose heart because of our limitations or ever stop seeking that fullness of love and communion which God holds out before us." ("Amoris Laetitia," April 8, 2016). -- On life: "Human life is sacred and inviolable. Every civil right rests on the recognition of the first and fundamental right, that of life, which is not subordinate to any condition, be it quantitative, economic or, least of all, ideological." (Speech to the Italian pro-life movement, April 11, 2014). -- On mercy: "Mercy: the bridge that connects God and humanity, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness." ("Misericordiae Vultus," April 11, 2015). -- On migration: "Migrants are our brothers and sisters in search of a better life far from poverty, hunger, exploitation and the unjust distribution of the planet's resources, which are meant to be equitably shared by all. Don't we all want a better, more decent and prosperous life to share with our loved ones?" (Message for World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2016). -- On religious freedom: "It is incomprehensible and alarming that, still today, discrimination and restrictions of rights continue for the single fact that one belongs to and publicly professes an unwavering faith. It is unacceptable that real persecution is actually sustained for reasons of religious affiliation! Wars as well! This distorts reason, attacks peace and humiliates human dignity." (Speech, June 20, 2014). -- On Satan: "The devil exists even in the 21st century and we shouldn't be naive. ... We have to learn from the Gospel how to fight" against him. (Homily, April 11, 2014). -- On vocations: "A vocation is a fruit that ripens in a well-cultivated field of mutual love that becomes mutual service, in the context of an authentic ecclesial ...
Tue, 13 Feb 2018
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Formalizing their unity in the intimate setting of the chapel of the papal residence, Pope Francis and Melkite Patriarch Joseph Absi concelebrated Mass together in the presence of members of the Melkite synod of bishops. Instead of giving a homily at the early morning Mass Feb. 13, Pope Francis explained the special nature of Patriarch Absi's visit. "He is the father of a church, a very ancient church, and he comes to embrace Peter, to say, 'I'm in communion with Peter,'" Pope Francis said during the Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae. The Melkite church, one of the many Eastern churches in full union with Rome, "has its own theology within Catholic theology, it has a marvelous liturgy and a people of its own." "At this time, a large portion of that people is being crucified like Jesus," the pope said, referring especially to Melkites who, like Patriarch Absi, are from Syria. "We offer this Mass for the people, for the people who suffer, for the persecuted Christians of the Middle East." The 71-year-old patriarch, who was elected in June, told Pope Francis, "I cannot describe how beautiful this moment is," but he said he was "very moved by your fraternal charity, by the gestures of fraternity and solidarity you have shown our church." At the end of the Mass, Pope Francis asked the patriarch to join him in giving the final blessing to the few dozen people invited to the morning Mass. The pope, patriarch and bishops also had met Feb. 12 in the papal library. "At this difficult time, many Christian communities in the Middle East are called to live their faith in the Lord Jesus in the midst of many trials," the pope told them. He prayed that the patriarch, bishops and priests of the Melkite church would live in a way that would encourage all the faithful "to remain in the land where divine providence wanted them to be." Pope Francis urged them to be "pastors -- like the Lord with his disciples -- who reanimate the hearts of the faithful by staying close to them, consoling them, reaching down to them and their needs; pastors who, at the same time, accompany them up, to seek what is above, where there is Christ, and not the things of earth." While Pope Francis had called Catholics to join a day of prayer and fasting Feb. 23 specifically for peace in Congo and South Sudan, he told the Melkites, "I will not fail to remember, in a special way, Syria, which has been struck by indescribable suffering these past few years."
Fri, 09 Feb 2018
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Few people have considered how communities and nations actually tolerate and encourage human trafficking, particularly as it relates to prostitution, Pope Francis said. Modern forms of slavery "are far more widespread than previously imagined, even -- to our scandal and shame -- within the most prosperous of our societies," the pope said Feb. 9 during a meeting with an international group of law enforcement and church workers. "God's cry to Cain, found in the first pages of the Bible -- 'Where is your brother?' -- challenges us to examine seriously the various forms of complicity by which society tolerates, and encourages, particularly with regard to the sex trade, the exploitation of vulnerable men, women and children," the pope told the Santa Marta Group. The Santa Marta Group is an anti-trafficking initiative organized by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales to bring together representatives of bishops' conferences and top national and international law enforcement officials to promote cooperation, particularly in identifying victims of trafficking and caring for them once they are rescued. British Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, introducing the group to the pope, described human trafficking as "the darkest face of globalization." The cardinal told reporters later there are more than 42 million people in slavery today. Cressida Dick, commissioner of the London Metropolitan Police, told Catholic News Service she "absolutely" agrees with Pope Francis that citizens are encouraging, or at least tolerating, human trafficking by tolerating prostitution. She said her department has "well over 20 current, live operations targeting human trafficking. A large number of those relate to the sex trade." The victims are mostly women and girls, "and the people paying them for their services are often oblivious to the history of how somebody ended up in that position," the commissioner said. During the meeting at the Vatican Feb. 8-9, representatives of more than 30 countries shared what their governments and their Catholic communities are doing to prevent trafficking, rescue and assist victims and prosecute traffickers. William Canny, executive director of the U.S. bishops' Migration and Refugee Services, told the Santa Marta Group that the church in the United States has been working to counter trafficking for some 20 years, with activities ranging from grass-roots advocacy to specialized assistance to victims of "this heinous crime." Many diocesan Catholic Charities offices work directly with the Department of Homeland Security's investigative unit to ensure immediate assistance to those rescued from traffickers, he said. The Catholic Health Association has developed tools to help health care workers recognize possible victims of trafficking when they come to an emergency room, hospital or rural health clinic. While Catholic agencies provide emergency assistance, shelter and support to rescued victims of trafficking, Canny said, the bishops' conference is now looking at how to promote "long-term restoration for survivors." "The program will prepare victims of trafficking, whether U.S. citizens or foreign nationals, to enter employment through individual coaching, skill attainment" and education in preparing resumes and getting ready for job interviews, Canny said. "Victims of forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation deserve the chance to move beyond basic survival by achieving dignified employment and self-sufficiency." Callista Gingrich, the U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, told the group the U.S. State Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI have been devoting increasing resources to fighting human trafficking and have increased their partnerships with Catholic and other nongovernmental organizations. "The traumatic experiences suffered by victims of human trafficking are beyond comprehension," she said. "It is crucial that law enforcement agencies develop ...
Fri, 09 Feb 2018
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Though not as fast as a speeding bullet, "Superpope" will fly across the world, gathering autographs of sports stars and eventually being auctioned off to raise money for the pope's charity. The initiative kicked off Feb. 8 at a Vatican news conference with the unveiling of a simple medium-sized yellow T-shirt graced with the iconic "Superpope" image: Pope Francis, fist extended, flying through the air, holding his black bag packed with Christian "values" and a scarf representing his hometown San Lorenzo soccer team. The first superstar who signed the tee was recently retired Roma soccer legend, Francesco Totti, who even added his old team number "10" to the signature. Next in line for the shirt signing "relay" around the world will be soccer star Diego Maradona, followed by world champion motorcyclist Marc Marquez and many more, including top female athletes, said Msgr. Dario Vigano, prefect of the Secretariat for Communication. The plan is to get as many famous signatures as possible before it goes on auction, possibly by "the end of the summer," said Christian Fasulo, CEO of the Polk&Union agency, which is running the marketing campaign. The first "Superpope" image went up on a backstreet near the Vatican on a cold night in January 2014. The artist, Mauro Pallotta, who signs his work, "Maupal," paints his removable street art onto paper that he then glues with a water-based adhesive to walls around Rome. While most of his street art tends to stay up for years, the depiction of the pope drew an uncharacteristically quick response from the city's "decorum" police, who showed up just two days later to inspect the infraction and then had it scraped off and repainted the next day. But by then, media coverage and pictures of the image had gone viral. Pallotta, a classically trained painter, put up another pope-themed piece near the Vatican in October 2016, this time depicting a clandestine graffiti game of tic-tac-toe. In the rendition, Pope Francis has climbed a ladder to turn the O's into peace signs and makes the win while a Swiss Guard peeks around the corner as the lookout. That piece only lasted half a day before the city's waste collectors scraped it all off. But once Pallotta got permission from the Vatican to use his "Superpope" image, the artist launched an #OrdinaryHeroes movement online in October 2017 with the help of a local entrepreneur. The idea was to get people to share stories of ordinary people doing simple, positive and caring things, based on the belief that, "in order to change the world, we don't need superheroes, but everyday heroes who spread the values of humility and solidarity, which Pope Francis, the first of the #OrdinaryHeroes, perfectly embodies," according to the superpope.it website. Pallotta told reporters Feb. 8 that he was "enormously happy and proud" about the latest initiative and that the message behind his work was finally understood. The superpose.it site sells T-shirts with the "Superpope" image for 19 euros (about $23) so people can show their support for the message and show solidarity with others since part of the profit (about one euro per shirt) goes to the papal Peter's Pence charity. But the full 100 percent of the proceeds from the autographed T-shirt sold at auction will go to Peter's Pence, a collection that primarily funds the Roman Curia, but earmarks about 10-15 percent of fund to be used by the pope for emergency relief, medical assistance to those in need and the construction of schools and hospitals in poor areas, said Archbishop Angelo Becciu, a top official in the Vatican Secretariat of State. Written on the back of the shirts are quotes from Pope Francis in Spanish, English and Italian. The shirts are also on sale in Vatican-owned bookstores by St. Peter's Square.
Wed, 07 Feb 2018
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- "I am on a pilgrimage toward Home," retired Pope Benedict XVI wrote, capitalizing the Italian word "casa" or "home." Almost exactly five years after announcing his intention to be the first pope in nearly 600 years to resign, Pope Benedict wrote the letter to a journalist from the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. "I am touched to know how many of the readers of your newspaper want to know how I am experiencing this last period of my life," the 90-year-old retired pope wrote. "In that regard, I can only say that, with the slow diminishing of my physical strength, inwardly I am on a pilgrimage toward Home." "It is a great grace in this last, sometimes tiring stage of my journey, to be surrounded by a love and kindness that I never could have imagined," said the letter, written on stationery with the heading "Benedictus XVI, Papa emeritus." Massimo Franco, the journalist, said the letter, dated Feb. 5, was hand-delivered; the newspaper posted it online Feb. 6 and published it on the front page of the print edition Feb. 7. During a meeting with cardinals Feb. 11, 2013, Pope Benedict stunned the cardinals and the world by saying, in Latin, "After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry." He set the date for his retirement as Feb. 28, 2013. And, seen off by dozens of weeping Vatican employees, he flew by helicopter to the papal villa at Castel Gandolfo where he remained until after Pope Francis was elected. The day before he left was a Wednesday and the overflowing crowd in St. Peter's Square made it clear that it was anything but a normal Wednesday general audience. He told an estimated 150,000 people that his pontificate, which had lasted almost eight years, was a time of "joy and light, but also difficult moments." "The Lord has given us so many days of sun and light breeze, days in which the catch of fish has been abundant," he said, likening himself to St. Peter on the Sea of Galilee. "There have also been moments in which the waters were turbulent and the wind contrary, as throughout the history of the church, and the Lord seemed to be asleep," he said. "But I have always known that the Lord is in that boat and that the boat of the church is not mine, it is not ours, but it is his and he does not let it sink." A monastery in the Vatican Gardens was remodeled for Pope Benedict, and that is where he has lived for five years, reading, praying, listening to music and welcoming visitors. Until 2016 the retired pope occasionally would join Pope Francis at important public liturgies, including the Mass for the canonization of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II in 2014 and for the opening of the 2015-2016 Year of Mercy. Pope Benedict also attended the ceremonies for the creation of new cardinals in 2014 and 2015. But as it became more and more difficult for Pope Benedict to walk, Pope Francis and the new cardinals would get in vans and drive the short distance to the Mater Ecclesiae monastery to pay their respects. The retired pope's letter to Corriere della Sera echoed remarks he had made the afternoon of his retirement when he arrived in Castel Gandolfo and greeted crowds there before the very dramatic, globally televised scene of Swiss Guards closing the massive doors to the villa and hanging up their halberds. "I am a simple pilgrim who begins the last stage of his pilgrimage on this earth," he told the people. "But with all my heart, with all my love, with my prayers, with my reflection, with all my interior strength, I still want to work for the common good and the good of the church and humanity." In "Last Testament," a book-length interview with journalist Peter Seewald published in 2016, Pope Benedict insisted he was not pressured by anyone or any particular event to resign, and he did not feel he was running away from any problem. However, ...
Tue, 06 Feb 2018
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Catholics should use the season of Lent to look for signs and symptoms of being under the spell of false prophets and of living with cold, selfish and hateful hearts, Pope Francis said. Together with "the often bitter medicine of the truth," the church -- as mother and teacher -- offers people "the soothing remedy of prayer, almsgiving and fasting," the pope said in his message for Lent, which begins Feb. 14 for Latin-rite Catholics. The pope also invited all non-Catholics who are disturbed by the increasing injustice, inertia and indifference in the world, to "join us then in raising our plea to God in fasting and in offering whatever you can to our brothers and sisters in need." The pope's Lenten message, which was released at the Vatican Feb. 6, looked at Jesus' apocalyptic discourse to the disciples on the Mount of Olives, warning them of the many signs and calamities that will signal the end of time and the coming of the son of man. Titled, "Because of the increase of evildoing, the love of many will grow cold" (Mt. 24:12), the papal message echoes Jesus' caution against the external enemies of false prophets and deceit, and the internal dangers of selfishness, greed and a lack of love. Today's false prophets, the pope wrote, "can appear as 'snake charmers,' who manipulate human emotions in order to enslave others and lead them where they would have them go." So many of God's children, he wrote, are: "mesmerized by momentary pleasures, mistaking them for true happiness"; enchanted by money's illusion, "which only makes them slaves to profit and petty interests"; and convinced they are autonomous and "sufficient unto themselves, and end up entrapped by loneliness!" "False prophets can also be 'charlatans,' who offer easy and immediate solutions to suffering that soon prove utterly useless," he wrote. People can be trapped by the allure of drugs, "disposable relationships," easy, but dishonest gains as well as "virtual," but ultimately meaningless relationships, he wrote. "These swindlers, in peddling things that have no real value, rob people of all that is most precious: dignity, freedom and the ability to love," the message said. The pope asked people to examine their heart to see "if we are falling prey to the lies of these false prophets" and to learn to look at things more closely, "beneath the surface," and recognize that what comes from God is life-giving and leaves "a good and lasting mark on our hearts." Christians also need to look for any signs that their love for God and others has started to dim or grow cold, the pope said. Greed for money is a major red flag, he wrote, because it is the "root of all evil" and soon leads to a rejection of God and his peace. "All this leads to violence against anyone we think is a threat to our own 'certainties': the unborn child, the elderly and infirm, the migrant, the foreigner among us, or our neighbor who does not live up to our expectations," the pope wrote. Another sign of love turned cold is the problem of pollution, he said, which causes creation to become poisoned by waste, "discarded out of carelessness or selfishness." The polluted oceans unfortunately also become a burial ground for countless victims of forced migration and "the heavens, which in God's plan, were created to sing his praises," are slashed by machinery that rain down instruments of death, he wrote. Whole communities, he said, also can show signs of a cold lack of love wherever there is selfish sloth, sterile pessimism, the temptation to become isolated, constant internal fighting and a "worldly mentality that makes us concerned only for appearances, and thus lessens our missionary zeal." The remedy for these ills can be strengthened during Lent with prayer, almsgiving and fasting, he wrote. Praying more enables "our hearts to root out our secret lies and forms of self-deception, and then to find the consolation God offers," he said in his message. "Almsgiving sets us free from ...
Mon, 05 Feb 2018
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- With so many direct attacks on human life, from abortion to war, Pope Francis said he is worried that so few people are involved in pro-life activities. Reciting the Angelus prayer at the Vatican Feb. 4, Pope Francis marked Italy's Pro-Life Sunday and also called for a day of prayer and fasting for peace Feb. 23, with special prayers for Congo and South Sudan. Some 20,000 people gathered in St. Peter's Square for the Angelus. Many of them carried the pro-life movement's green balloons with the message, "Yes to life." Thanking all the "different church realities that promote and support life in many ways," Pope Francis said he was surprised there were not more people involved. "This worries me," the pope said. "There aren't many who fight on behalf of life in a world where, every day, more weapons are made; where, every day, more laws against life are passed; where, every day, this throwaway culture expands, throwing away what isn't useful, what is bothersome" to too many people. Pope Francis asked for prayers that more people would become aware of the need to defend human life "in this moment of destruction and of throwing away humanity." With conflict continuing in many parts of the world, the pope said it was time for a special day of prayer and fasting for peace and that it was appropriate for the observance to take place Feb. 23, a Friday in Lent. "Let us offer it particularly for the populations of the Democratic Republic of Congo and of South Sudan," he said. Fighting between government troops and rebel forces and between militias continue in Congo, especially in the East, but tensions also have erupted as protests grow against President Joseph Kabila, whose term of office ended in 2016. New elections have yet to be scheduled. South Sudan became independent from Sudan in 2011 after decades of war. But, just two years after independence, political tensions erupted into violence. Pope Francis asked "our non-Catholic and non-Christian brothers and sisters to join this initiative in the way they believe is most opportune." And he prayed that "our heavenly Father would always listen to his children who cry to him in pain and anguish." But individuals also must hear those cries, he said, and ask themselves, "'What can I do for peace?' Certainly we can pray, but not only. Each person can say 'no' to violence" in their daily lives and interactions. "Victories obtained with violence are false victories, while working for peace is good for everyone."
Mon, 05 Feb 2018
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- For the first time, the International Olympic Committee has invited a Vatican delegation not only to take part in the opening ceremony of the Winter Games, but also to attend its general meeting as an official observer. The delegation was to be led by Msgr. Melchor Sanchez de Toca Alameda, undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture and head of its "Culture and Sport" section. The Vatican delegation was invited to attend the opening ceremony at the Olympic Stadium in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Feb. 9 as well as the Olympic committee's annual session Feb. 5-7 where voting members meet to discuss major issues in the world of sports, reported the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, Feb. 2. A Vatican delegation attended the opening of the Summer Olympics in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, but this was the first time a Vatican delegation was also invited to attend an annual session of the Olympic committee. Msgr. Sanchez, a former modern pentathlete, told the Vatican newspaper he would present Thomas Bach, president of the IOC, and all Korean Olympic athletes with the official yellow and white jerseys worn by members of the Vatican's running club "Athletica Vaticana," which -- like its other sports teams -- is made up of employees of Vatican City State and the Holy See. Athletes from both North Korea and South Korea were to walk together during the opening ceremony and were to carry the Korean "Unification Flag" -- a flag designed to represent all of Korea when athletes from the North and South participate as one team in sporting events. Nearly two dozen North Korean athletes received permission from the IOC to compete in the Winter Games, which take place Feb. 9-25. While athletes will compete for their respective countries, there will be a unified Korean team at the Olympics for the first time as players from both North and South Korea make up a team in women's ice hockey.
Wed, 31 Jan 2018
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Listening to the Scripture readings at Mass is hearing God speak directly to his people, offering spiritual sustenance and needed guidance for life's difficult journey, Pope Francis said. For that reason, the prescribed texts should never be skipped or substituted during the Mass, lectors should read clearly and people should always listen with an open heart so that the words may eventually bear fruit in good deeds, the pope said at his weekly general audience Jan. 31. Continuing his series of audience talks on the Mass, Pope Francis spoke about the Liturgy of the Word and the importance of listening to the Bible readings at Mass. "In the Liturgy of the Word, in fact, the pages of the Bible stop being something written and become the living word, delivered by God himself," the pope said. As the readings are proclaimed, people in the pews should be silent and receptive, opening their hearts and minds to what is being said, not looking around or making small talk and criticizing what other people are wearing, he said. "We have to listen, open our hearts, because it is God himself who is speaking to us. So don't think about other things or talk about something else. Understood?" he asked the thousands of people gathered in St. Peter's Square. "We need to listen! It is a question of life," he said, because as Jesus told the devil in the desert, "one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God." People can receive spiritual nourishment from the "table" of God's word, which is abundant and "rich" in so many biblical offerings, he said. It is obvious then why "some subjective choices" are forbidden -- such as omitting the prescribed readings or substituting them with nonbiblical texts, for example, like the newspaper for bringing up a current event, he said. "No. The word of God is the word of God. You can read the newspaper later. However, right there, the word of God gets read," not something else, he said. Substituting God's word with something else "impoverishes and compromises the dialogue between God and his people in prayer," the pope said, while sticking with the prescribed readings expresses and fosters ecclesial communion, helping everyone on their journey together. The pope also insisted on choosing lectors who are well-prepared and speak clearly, not people who garble their words "and no one can understand a thing." "The Lord's word is an indispensable aid for not getting lost," he said. It is, as the psalmist says, "a lamp for my feet, a light for my path." "How can we tackle our earthly pilgrimage, with its trials and tribulations, without being regularly nourished and enlightened by the Word of God that rings out in the liturgy," the pope asked. Also, he said, listening to God's word requires much more than one's ears. It must go from the ears, to the heart and then to the hands, resulting in good works in the world, he said. "It's necessary to have an open heart to receive the word," Pope Francis said. "God speaks and we turn to him to listen so as to then put into practice what we have heard."
Thu, 25 Jan 2018
ROME (CNS) -- When different Christian churches recognize the validity of one another's baptisms, they are recognizing that God's grace is at work in them, Pope Francis said. "Even when differences separate us, we recognize that we are part of the redeemed people, the same family of brothers and sisters loved by the one Father," the pope said Jan. 25 at an ecumenical evening prayer service closing the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The week ends on the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, and the papal vespers are celebrated at Rome's Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, the church where, according to tradition, the apostle is buried. At the beginning of the prayer service, Pope Francis stood before what is believed to be St. Paul's tomb, accompanied by Orthodox Metropolitan Gennadios of Italy and Malta and Anglican Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi, the archbishop of Canterbury's personal representative to the Holy See. The theme of the 2018 week of prayer was "Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power," which is taken from the song of Moses and Miriam in the Book of Exodus. It is a song of praise to God for having saved the Israelites as they crossed the Red Sea. In his homily, Pope Francis said the early church theologians saw the parting of the Red Sea, the drowning of the Pharaoh's forces and the safe passage of the Israelites as an image of baptism. "Our sins are what was drowned by God in the living waters of baptism," he said. "Sin threatened to make us slaves forever, but the force of divine love overpowered it." Precisely because Christians have experienced God's "powerful mercy in saving us," they can pray together and sing God's praises, he said. Another lesson from the crossing of the Red Sea, the pope said, is that while it involved individuals being saved by God, it also involved a community. And after St. Paul was knocked off his horse and converted, he said, "the grace of God pushed him to seek communion with other Christians, immediately, first in Damascus and then in Jerusalem." "That is our experience as believers," the pope said. "Bit by bit as we grow in the spiritual life, we understand better that grace reaches us together with others and that it is meant to be shared with others." "When we say we recognize the baptism of Christians from other traditions, we are confessing that they, too, have received the forgiveness of the Lord and his grace is working in them," Pope Francis said. "And we accept their worship as an authentic expression of praise for what God has accomplished." But, he said, like the Israelites who wandered through the desert after passing through the Red Sea, Christians today face difficulties in their journey together. Some even face the danger of martyrdom simply because they are Christians. And, like people of many religious traditions, there are millions of Christians in the world who fleeing from conflict and poverty or who are victims of human trafficking or are starving "in a world increasingly rich in means and poor in love," the pope said. But united in baptism and strengthened by God's grace, he said, Christians are called to support one another and, "armed only with Jesus and the sweet power of his Gospel, to face every challenge with courage and hope." Earlier in the day, meeting with a delegation from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, Pope Francis said the greatest ecumenical challenge is to proclaim together faith in God and Jesus Christ to an increasingly secularized world. And acting together on that faith, he said, Christians must ask for God's grace to become instruments of his peace. "May he help us always, amid divisions between peoples, to work together as witnesses and servants of his healing and reconciling love, and in this way to sanctify and glorify his name," the pope told the Finnish delegation.